Why Not to Buy Manual Alphabet Cards from Peddlers

Why Not to Buy Manual Alphabet Cards from Peddlers

By Marta Belsky
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is Deaf and a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.


I was approached by a deaf person with manual alphabet cards. Should I buy one?




Peddlers who pass out cards with the manual alphabet like to frequent high traffic places like airports and coffee shops and cafes in big cities.  Peddlers appear to be uneducated, unskilled and unemployable — a victim of society. In truth, some of these peddlers are very clever. By preying on gullible hearing people, a successful peddler can earn quite a bit!  

The majority of Deaf people are hard-working taxpayers who bitterly resent the stereotype that these peddlers perpetuate. For years Deaf people have spent time and energy educating the public and trying to undo negative, demeaning perceptions of the Deaf. Most damaging is the fear that strikes the heart of a mother or father whose child has just been diagnosed as deaf and thinks “Is my daughter or son going to become one of t-h-e-m?”

There is a big difference between buying something for a set price from someone selling products on the street and being pursued by a peddler and psychologically pressured into “paying the price you think it is worth.” ABC cards are not a legitimate product. They are a gimmick. Selling them is a con game. Kind hearted hearing people who really want to learn the manual alphabet to communicate with Deaf people should not have to pay through the nose for it. If you truly want to “help deaf people” there are many good ways to do it:

  • Buy a ticket to a Deaf theater performance.
  • Contribute to a Deaf school fundraiser.
  • Buy books by Deaf authors.
  • Buy art by Deaf artists.  

Sadly, many of these “deaf” peddlers aren’t even deaf. They’re hearing people faking deafness. As proven time and time again when a person approaches them and asks in fluent American Sign Language (ASL), “Why are you doing this?” Watch them make a quick escape!

Resources and Related Books:

  1. Gannon, Jack R. (1981, June 1). Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America. National Association of the Deaf.
  2. Moore, Matthew S. & Levitan, Linda. (2016, January 1). For Hearing People Only: Answers to Some of the Most Commonly Asked Questions about the Deaf Community, Its Culture, and the "Deaf Reality". Deaf Life Press.


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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is Deaf and a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta